During these winter months, we often want to sit down in our stretchy clothes by the fire with something warm and comforting. And in small chunks, this is perfectly acceptable. However, vegging out too much can increase our chances of gaining weight, catching “something” that’s out there, or just feeling plain ol’ miserable.
So, to help keep up your health and sanity during the winter season, here are some of my go-to tips.
- Eat within one to one and a half hours after waking.
I hear a lot, “I’m not hungry in the morning” or “Breakfast food is so carb-y.” But who says you have to eat breakfast food for breakfast?
Eating something is always better than nothing when it comes to breakfast. Try something from this list for a high-protein, low-carb breakfast:
- an egg (hardboiled, scrambled, over easy, even in the microwave!)
- plain Greek yogurt with honey or frozen fruit stirred in
- cottage cheese
- almond/peanut/cashew butter (NO Nutella®!)
I’m not against using protein supplements either, but be cautious when choosing. In addition to protein for breakfast, balance your breakfast by adding a nutrient-dense carbohydrate, such as sweet potatoes or steel-cut oats. I’ve been known to eat a sweet potato and walnuts for breakfast; it’s a sweet and protein-full breakfast. The biggest takeaway here is: It doesn’t have to be a “typical” breakfast, as long as you’re eating something nutrient rich and within an hour and a half of waking up.
- Fuel your body as often as every two to five hours.
Fueling your body throughout the day will keep your metabolism going and help with portion control. My problematic time is often in the afternoon. If I don’t have something to eat then, I either get “hangry” or I overeat at dinner. A couple of quick and easy snacks include:
- 2 tablespoons hummus + ½ cup sugar snap peas
- 5 reduced-fat Triscuits® + 1 ounce low-fat cheese
- Don’t skip meals.
Even on a day when you have a larger eating episode planned, don’t skip a meal. If you go longer than three to four hours without eating—believe it or not—your metabolism starts to slow down. Your body starts working against you instead of for you. The key to remember is that “something” is better than nothing. It doesn’t have to be a full traditional meal to count as a meal. Something as simple as cottage cheese, canned peaches (canned in light syrup) and cucumber slices with ranch dressing can actually be a meal.
- Plan ahead.
This is the biggest challenge to most of us. I hear often, “if I just planned, it would all be better.” I like to say, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” but you can have the best laid plans and have it all fall through.
But some plan is better than no plan. Start small and work up. Try laying out or prepping for breakfast, lunch or dinner for the next day. Then plan for three days a week, then a week and then work up from there. For this time of year, start with just planning for a challenging day and that will get you going in the right direction.
- Eat as a family
Did you know the average family meals lasts about 18 minutes? I’ve heard from many of parents that they spend over an hour in the kitchen—and for what? But, believe it or not, these 18 minutes together carry a long list of benefits.
When I say eat as a family, I’m don’t mean plopping down on the couch in front of the TV. Sitting around the table is the most beneficial. In my house, we even sit around our island some nights when I haven’t had time to clear all the paperwork off the kitchen table. But, keep the TV, phones, gaming systems, etc. off during this time.
- Leave food in sight.
This doesn’t mean to not put your cold food in the refrigerator, but keep it where you can see it. Store produce and other healthier foods in see-through containers at eye level in your fridge or in a pretty bowl visible on the counter. We typically eat more of what we can see, and if it looks good, it can be one less barrier to making healthy choices happen.
I also like to create a healthy snack bag with nonperishable items and leave it in my car. You may think this is crazy, but you never know what could happen on the road, especially this time of year. It never fails—my shopping takes too long or the roads are not good, and my drive home takes twice as long. Luckily, in my snack bag I have a 100 calorie pack of almonds and walnuts, protein bar, apple, cuties, and a bottle of water. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, but it saves calories and money from stopping somewhere and getting something to eat/drink or gorging when you get home.
- Ask yourself 3 questions
I encourage you to ask yourself these three questions when are you are going to the refrigerator, cabinet or food table.
- Am I hungry or am I actually thirsty?
- Am I hungry or bored?
- Am I hungry or just tired of dark days and winter?
If you answered “hungry” to any or all of these questions, then get something to eat. But this system will get you thinking before you start mindlessly eating.
I know this time of year can be difficult, on all accounts, in terms of eating. But maybe one or more of these tips will help you to maintain your weight, health and sanity. Happy Holidays!